Hamelin

The three days of wind and rain blew enough leaves out of the trees that I had to get out a wheelbarrow and go raking. The brightly-colored fallen ones bring back such recollection of the small farm town in eastern Washington where I lived several years when young. That’s because the streets were lined with trees, mainly oaks and walnuts, as I recall. The way these maple leaves pattern themselves in overlays when they fall is a study that should be offered in college curriculum. The rain has made them slippery, however, and so I needed to move them off the drive way and patio. I know the work is only partially done because so many more leaves still hang free in the sky. To see them all come down in one day would be, I suppose, some localized form of an apocalypse. The day by day dropping seems more in agreement with that of human nature.

The creeks have been full and moving fallen tree limbs and odd pieces of lumber down to the sea. I walked through a couple of miles of beach yesterday, just looking at all the odd shapes and textures that appeared so suddenly from seemingly nowhere. Just a few days ago the sand held plenty of people with colorful blankets, towels, and umbrellas. We all were saying summer had remained with us much longer than usual. Many were perhaps even hoping summer might last all winter, but now those silly hopes are buried in driftwood and deep piles of shiny, rubbery kelp that has been ripped from the sea floor. I watched a lady untwist a string of yellow nylon rope from a clump of kelp strands, while kids stomped on poppable kelp bulbs. It will take months of driftwood collectors, firewood gatherers, and the approach of more angry storms, before the beaches are clean of winter debris, but then all the imagination that these storms bring will also be gone. This is the time of year for me to be walking and looking, when the wildest part of nature is shouting so forcefully. The other seasons seem like a whisper.

When digging through a garden shed for a rake and gloves, I came across a rat’s nest. I knew he had been busy working on a project, chewing up stuff, so I had put out pellets a few days ago, to make him stop. Sure enough, there he was, lying still in a mess of string, tape, fiberglass insulation from under my house, broom straw, grass, and sticks. My car runs funny now because he had also been chewing on the wiring. Why is there such a thing as rats? Pulling out him and his nest materials made me think of the childhood tale of the pied piper of Hamelin, in which the children of the town were lured away by a piper because the townspeople did not pay him for ridding them of the rats.

I look for myself in that story ever so often, probably because it made such an impression when I was young. I was lured away from my childhood by the charm of growing into an adult culture full of promises. My parents lost me when I became a teenager. The delight and innocent wonder of childhood could not be sustained by the world into which I was growing. That world continues to be riddled with difficulties (war, economics, poverty, crime, disease) equivalent to a plague of rats. It is costly to fix society’s problems, with no resources or interest in restoring a time in our history that was safe for children. I can never be returned to my parents. Maybe I lived the true part of my true life when I was young and could hear the piper.

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